Leslie Thomas’s first novel went straight to the top of the bestseller charts in 1966 and this movie version quickly tried to capitalise on its success. Thomas wrote about his national service experiences in Singapore in the 1950s, where manhood was discovered through sex and military action during the Malayan Emergency.
In one sense the movie, written by John Hopkins, Ian La Frenais and John McGrath, is just Private’s Progress (1956) with a touch of Carry On Sergeant (1958), but the vivid action scenes and the probability of getting shot give it a blacker dramatic edge.
Hywel Bennett is our hero Private Briggs, Lynn Redgrave the RSM’s comely daughter, Philippa Raskin, and Tsai Chin plays an Oriental tart called Juicy Lucy.
Briggs doesn’t lose his virginity to Philippa as you might expect, and neither does she to him because she mistakes Sergeant Driscoll (Nigel Davenport) for him and they spend the night together.
If you look carefully, you might spot Wayne Sleep and David Bowie swelling the ranks.
Regimental Sergeant Major Raskin
Lt Col Bromley-Pickering